Whitehead Sees "Growth" With the Safeties

As the Tigers head into their fourth week of spring football practice, Jeremaine Whitehead discusses the play of the safeties.

Auburn, Ala.--With starters Ryan Smith at safety and Chris Davis at cornerback being seniors last year, Auburn's defensive coaches are reworking the secondary this spring.

One of the players they are building around is senior safety Jermaine Whitehead, who has started every game for the Tigers the past two seasons.

"I see a lot of guys trying to grow and make that growth real fast," he said of the safety group that includes newcomer Derrick Moncrief, who has been one of the standouts of the spring.

"Those guys are working real hard and putting in a lot of work," said Whitehead, who finished fourth on the team in tackles last year with 65.

Jermaine Whitehead

"I?am proud of them," he added. "I am proud to be the old head in the group to watch those guys make strides to try to be great players. My favorite position is in the back end. They are proving themselves to be good players back there."

Moncrief, who made an interception in Saturday's scrimmage, joined the team in January after spending two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. "He is doing great," Whitehead said. "He is a guy who likes to think and make plays. He understands the game.

"I like being on the field with him because he already knows what is going on, and he kind of understands what I am thinking and what the defense is thinking," Whitehead said. "He definitely has a mind for the game."

Derrick Moncrief

Asked if Moncrief could move into the starting lineup this season, Whitehead said, "He could definitely be a starter. I will let the coaches work that out. We have got some great players back there. I think we have got some shuffling around to do."

Part of the shuffling in the secondary that has already taken place involved moving Johnathan Ford to safety where the Tigers are short on depth. In 2013 the coaches moved cornerback Josh Holsey there and he ended up starting until he was injured in practice prior to the Texas A&M game.

Holsey, who is still recovering from his knee injury, should be ready to go full speed in preseason practices in August. Another player who saw action at safety, Ryan White, followed Holsey's path in making the move there from cornerback, but he is gone, too, after playing a major role as a senior.

The most recent cornerback to safety move involves Ford. The player known as "Rudy" split his time between running back and cornerback last fall as a true freshman.

Jonathan Ford

"Rudy's a physical player, one that has got a passion for the game," Whitehead pointed out. "He wants to line up every play and knock someone out. He brings a lot to the game as far as his physicality and also his mentality, his learning.

"A lot of guys play off his energy when he's in the game because he is one of the guys--he's kind of like me--he talks, he's a communicator. He makes everything happen."

A safety who made good things happen for the defense in scrimmage two is senior Brandon King, who saw very limited playing time as a junior after transferring from Highland Community College in Kansas.

Brandon King

"He had a spectacular day," Whitehead said, noting the senior had multiple big hits. "He made a lot of plays. I think the coaches have been expecting a lot out of him and I think he has been putting his best foot forward this spring."

Whitehead said that King seems to have made the adjustment to what Auburn's coaches are looking for in their 4-2-5 alignment. He noted that the safety has also adjusted to the level of competition in the SEC. "It is making a lot of sense to him now," Whitehead pointed out. "He is going to help us a lot this year."

Whitehead and his teammates will return to the field on Tuesday for their 10th of 15 spring practices. The Tigers will play their annual A-Day Game on Saturday, April 19th at 2 p.m. CDT.

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